24 November 2009
The Hon Julia Gillard MP
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600
Dear Hon Julia Gillard MP
The Australian School Library Association (ASLA) acknowledges the work of the Rudd Government in the area of education, in particular, the Building the Education Revolution (BER) investment in providing world-class libraries in primary schools. A number of our members have been actively involved in the decision making around the purpose, function and design of these school libraries. Of significance is the role the school library plays in supporting student learning.
In light of the developments of the BER, teacher quality and national curriculum, our association believes it is timely for the Rudd Government to undertake a national review of school libraries. The last national review was undertaken by the Gorton Government over four decades ago.
ASLA’s joint policy position with the Australian Library and Information Association (ALIA) is that professional and support staff are essential for the effective functioning of the school library and information services centre and the achievement of the school’s teaching and learning goals. In particular, the professional staff should be fully qualified teacher librarians who hold recognised teacher qualifications and qualifications in librarianship. Within the broad fields of education and librarianship, teacher librarians are uniquely qualified. This is valuable because curriculum knowledge and pedagogy are combined with library and information management knowledge and skills.
Our association has been proactive in the establishment of national professional standards for teacher librarians (2004) under the domains of professional knowledge, professional practice and professional commitment. We are currently working on the identification of the core knowledge, skills and attributes for competent teacher librarians as part of our contribution to the National Partnership on Improving Teacher Quality agenda.
Mr Robert Randall, General Manager ACARA, has invited ASLA to be significantly involved in providing feedback on the draft national curriculum documents with specific focus on the integration of the general capabilities relevant to the profession across the curriculum.
As a profession we strongly believe we have a responsibility to be involved in the development of the Australian education agenda. Teacher librarians play an integral role in delivering the school curriculum as our focus is on the digital literacy and soft skills required for successful learning. As such, we have some concerns about the future of school libraries and teacher librarians. An investment in infrastructure and facilities alone is not sufficient to continue to support student learning in the 21st Century.
The proposed national review would gather important data to inform future government decision making. To this end the review needs to target:
- The inclusion across the curriculum of digital literacy competencies within an inquiry based approach to teaching and learning.
- Examination of the significant contribution teacher librarians make to the delivery of digital literacy.
- The contribution of school libraries and teacher librarians in indigenous education.
- A focus on the impact of school libraries and teacher librarians on student achievement, through evidence-based practice.
- The identification, through data gathering, of the current national status and allocation of fully qualified teacher librarians across all sectors.
- The essential training requirements of qualified staff for school libraries.
- Endorsement of national standards for 21st Century student learners.
- The identification of state / territory government education support units for the profession.
- Clarification of levels of support staff in school libraries.
- Examination of the leadership role taken by teacher librarians in supporting teachers in the deliverance of the school curriculum.
The Rudd Government investment in school buildings, information and communication technologies (ICTs) infrastructure, national curriculum and teacher quality standards are all contributing to this being a very exciting time to work in the education sector. As classroom practitioners and school administrators deal with this changing landscape, we firmly believe that the cross-curricular, multi-disciplinary expertise of teacher librarians is vital to help them in this journey.
We look forward to receiving a response from you and to developing a strong working partnership which will sustain your education revolution.
Mr Rob Moore, President and Ms Karen Bonanno, Executive Officer
Response from the Office of the Hon Julia Gillard MP, Chief of Staff
17 December 2009
Mr Rob Moore
Australian School Library Association Inc
PO Box 155
ZILLMERE QLD 4034
Dear Mr Moore
Thank you for your co-signed letter of 24 November 2009 to the Hon Julia Gillard MP, Minister for Education, concerning priority issues identified by the Australian School Library Association. The Minister has asked me to reply on her behalf.
The Australian Government appreciates your recognition for the investment made in providing world-class libraries in primary schools and shares your view that qualified teacher librarians can be an asset in any school.
I encourage your continued contribution to the Smarter Schools - Improving Teacher Quality National Partnership reform agenda. You may be interested to know that following the transition of Teaching Australia to the Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership from 1 January 2010, the re-focused purpose of the Institute will be to provide national leadership for the Commonwealth, state and territory governments in promoting excellence in the profession of teaching and school leadership. It will take responsibility for rigorous national standards, and for fostering and driving high quality professional development for teachers and school leaders, working collaboratively across jurisdictions and through engagement with key professional bodies.
Reforms under the agreement will include improving the quality and availability of teacher workforce data. It is likely that this activity will consider the need for better data on teacher librarians. You may also be interested to know that some national data, relating to primary specialist teacher librarians is available from the Staff in Australia's Schools report, available at www.dest.gov.au/schools/sias2007.
It was pleasing to be made aware that the Association was invited by the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) to provide feedback into the draft national curriculum documents. The contribution of experienced education professionals such as yourself and your colleagues at the Association forms an important part of the curriculum development process.
As you would be aware, ACARA's work to develop Australia's first national curriculum is well underway. In early 2010, ACARA will be releasing the draft curriculum for kindergarten to Year 10 in English, mathematics, science and history for public consultation. I trust that the Association will take the opportunity to provide feedback.
I also encourage the Association to monitor the development of the national curriculum and to continue to work with ACARA by participating in other consultation opportunities as they arise.
Finally, in relation to your proposal for a review of school libraries, I must advise that the management of school libraries, including resourcing and allocation of staff, is the responsibility of the government and non-government education authorities in each state or territory.
Thank you for bringing this matter to the Minister's attention.
Chief of Staff